Arai DT-X Helmet | Gear Review

Arai DT-X
Arai DT-X

“Handbuilt” is a popular buzzword right now, eschewing corporate anonymity and a throwaway culture in favor of personalization and a human touch—bonus points if the packaging uses an old-timey font. But seriously, in a world where looking the part has become more important than actually adhering to the handbuilt ideal, it’s easy to forget that there are some companies who have been doing just that since before you were a twinkle in your daddy’s eye.

Arai is one of those companies; this small, family-owned business has been making helmets in its Japanese factory for more than 60 years, and each and every one is made by hand. In fact, there are two—count them, two—people whose job it is to sign off on every shell that is produced. Graphics are hand-laid, holes are hand-drilled. Arai could be accused of being stuck in the past, but you have to give it credit for sticking to its mission: making the safest helmet possible—which isn’t necessarily what helmet the market wants. To the folks at Arai, if you want something they don’t make, go buy it somewhere else. They’ll keep making their helmets to their safety standards: a rounded, egg-inspired shape, minimal recessions in the shell, the strongest shell possible and as few cutouts in the EPS liner as possible.

Arai DT-X
The DT-X has one large vent in the center of the helmet that scoops in air. Two more intakes are incorporated into the rear spoiler, plus there is a chin bar vent and two brow vents in the shield. Photos by Drew Ruiz.

Arai is also known for its distinctive shell shapes, Round Oval, Intermediate Oval and Long Oval, which allow the rider to choose the fit that’s right for them. I am an Intermediate Oval, which up until now has meant that my only two choices for an Arai street helmet were the “entry level” Vector 2 or the top-of-the-line, nearly $1,000 Corsair-X racing helmet. That has changed with the introduction of the newest helmet in the Arai street line, the DT-X.

Originally conceived as a replacement for the Vector 2, the DT-X (the DT stands for “DownTown”) evolved into a premium helmet that would fall into the general price category of the Signet-X (Long Oval) and Quantum-X (Round Oval), the bread and butter of Arai’s street line. Looking at the shell shape and vent positioning, the DT-X does bear a resemblance to the Vector 2. Compared to my size small Signet-X, the DT-X is smaller overall, more like my old Signet-Q. The fit, however, is sublime—better than the Signet-Q, and miles beyond my Signet-X and the overly round (for me) Quantum-X. I feel like Goldilocks: this one is juuuuuust right!

Arai DT-X BMW R nineT Urban GS
The DT-X’s small shell is stable at high speed and doesn’t leave me feeling like a bobblehead.

The DT-X gets the new PB-cLc (Peripheral Belt-complex Laminate construction) shell that the Signet-X and Quantum-X also use. Using Arai’s experience in Formula One racing, the PB-cLc shell has a reinforced upper eye port to protect this common impact area, and uses proprietary resins and Super Fibers to create a compact, lightweight shell. My size small DT-X weighs in at 3 pounds, 6.3 ounces, more than 2 ounces less than my small Signet-X.

The DT-X also gets the new VAS (Variable Axis Shield) system, which allows for a smoother shell at the temple area and a smaller pivot cover. It also fits Arai’s Pro Shade system, which is essentially an external drop-down sun shield. While still not exactly intuitive, changing shields is easier than on previous Arai helmets; you push on two black levers under each cover, popping them off, then rotate the shield up until it comes off. A bit of finagling gets the new one to slot in place, then more finagling to reattach the covers, and you’re done!

Arai DT-X
This graphic illustrates how air is pulled through the central vent and into the rear spoiler, accelerating air flow.

A new shield locking mechanism keeps it firmly closed, and like the shield change, mastering it requires a bit of a learning curve. First you push upwards on the lever with your thumb, which puts the shield in “de-mist” mode, allowing a tiny bit of airflow. Then hook your thumb under the shield edge and push out and up. With practice, it becomes one easy, fluid motion—although it was neither easy nor fluid when a wasp flew up into my helmet on our press ride. Fortunately, it was stunned by the impact and after a few terrifying seconds of panicked yanking at 60 mph, I was able to open the shield and free my little friend.

The DT-X has 10 vents, with a new “dual flow” design that pulls air through the vents, accelerating hot exhaust flow. While not quite as effective as the Corsair-X, I could still feel the air moving across my scalp, and it seemed to work regardless of my head position (tucked in or sitting upright). Despite the vents and the spoiler on the back, the DT-X was incredibly quiet and stable at speed; this would make a fine touring helmet.

Arai DT-X BMW R nineT Urban GS
The DT-X is comfortable enough for all-day wear and is easy to pull on and off. I can’t wait to get one in a color other than Black Frost (the only options at the press launch were white and black)!

The DT-X’s interior is soft and comfortable. The cheek pads have 5mm peel-away layers for custom fitting, and there are pockets cut out for speakers if you use a helmet comm system. A chin curtain is optional.

The takeaway is that Arai now offers helmets in its most popular “middle” category that fit all three head shapes—no more settling for what you don’t really want or need. The DT-X will be available in September in sizes XXS-XXL. Prices range from $589.95 for solids to $729.95 for graphics. For more information, see your dealer or visit



  1. Excellent review, but it may understate one feature. After years of wearing Arai helmets I gave them up, but not because of their quality. Even with the high price (including the ridiculous cost of replacement shields) they are one of the best lids on the market. I gave them up because – for me – that “bit of a learning curve” that “mastering a shield change” requires never materialized. As far as I was concerned, Siegfried & Roy couldn’t master the trick. So, are these new models less of a challenge? Perhaps, but I’ll need some convincing to return to Arai . . .

    • I feel ya. Arai lids have their quirks, for sure. I can say that this new system is easier, but more complicated…if that makes any sense. Where before you sort of tried to break it, and that’s when it worked, this new system incorporates multiple steps and a bit less breakage.

    • I respect Arai helmets; my only caveat is for people to try and change the shields before they buy, and to make sure they want to pay the price for replacement shields. The helmet I’m wearing now snaps shields off and on easier than putting on a pair of slippers. As far as fit & finish, Arai offers one of the best on the market. As an aside, an Arai saved my noggin once – maybe my life – so I also have an affinity for the lid . . . but that’s a story for another time.

  2. Jenny – you mention that the fit is better than the Signet-Q; can you elaborate? I tried a Signet-Q, going for the long oval shape after experiencing some very painful forehead hotspots with other helmets. However, while it seemed to give me the room I needed up front, it moved the hotspots to the sides, above/slightly behind my ears: turns out my head is more egg-shaped (wider in back than front ) than true long oval… so I’m really curious about the specifics of this being (for you) a different and better fit than the Q. Thanks.

    • I was getting painful hotspots at the sides of my head, right above my ears, on the new Signet-X (which might’ve been partly a result of the physical size of the helmet–it’s big). I didn’t get them on the Q, however. But when I put on the DT-X, it really was like Goldilocks. My head is roundish, but not so round that the Quantum (round oval) fits. The DT-X seems to tread that middle ground between the two–no hotspots on the forehead or above the ears. I would recommend trying one on if you get a chance. -Jenny

  3. I wonder why the high end helmet manufacturers can’t custom fit? We can buy custom fit footwear, clothes, even motorcycle seats . . . why not helmets? Given Arai’s assortment of shell shapes, you’d think they’d be in a perfect position to deliver on the custom helmet.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here